“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1–3, ESV)
Oh that we could be satisfied in God. So much of what I pray for is simply greed cloaked in spiritual garments. My requests reveal that I am not content with the blessings God has lavished upon me, but that I require more so that I may reach the pinnacle of potential happiness.
Today’s passage reminds me that my attitudes of covetousness and greed go beyond personal sin, but actually influence the body of Christ and my relationships with others. How? First of all, when I covet, I’m looking out for myself and my own interests. According to Philippians 2:3-8, God is not down with that. My desires should be to serve and lift up those around me, not bowl them over to get what I want. Our sinful yearnings may not be after possessions, but positions, recognition or the need to have my ideas implemented in the church.
The second reason this sin can be so detrimental to God’s people is that I begin to use people for gain. I look them over for what I might be able to get from them, rather than seeing them as a brother or sister in Christ. They are an asset rather than a friend.
James uses strong words in these verses because he’s dealing with a big problem. All Christians must find contentment in God, not in greed. May God work in our hearts so that we pray with the right motives and that we might serve others rather than exploit them for our own purposes.